Chance meeting with Muhammad Ali sparked memorabilia passion for Morrisville resident

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MORRISVILLE, Mo. In the week since the death of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, people from around the world have shared stories of their encounters with the former heavyweight champion.

It was routinely difficult for one of the most recognizable pop culture figures in the world to go unnoticed in any setting, including his stop in Marshfield, Mo. in 1973.

By chance, Jack Replogle, a current Morrisville resident, happened to be at the Country Village Restaurant, now the site of the Plaza Motel, to have breakfast that same morning. His first hunch that a unique visitor could be in town was the stylish camper in the parking lot.

"I walked in the boys room and I noticed a guy shaving,” he said. "I saw his face and thought I must have been seeing things. I said: ‘Aren't you--' and before I could get it out he said: ‘Yes, Muhammad Ali, the world's greatest fighter.”

Ali, known for his fear of flying, had stopped in Marshfield on his road trip to Las Vegas prior to his Valentine’s Day fight with Joe Bugner.

“The only thing I had to get an autograph that day of him was a blank check. I kept that in my wallet for many years and would pull it out, but it started to get worn, so I figured I’d better frame it.”

That check is still framed after years of resting in Replogle's pocket, ready to be flaunted at any appropriate moment.

“He even asked me to borrow my comb. What happened to that comb, I don't know, it's probably been gone for years.”

The boxer stepped out of the bathroom and sat the counter to eat breakfast, signing every autograph that was asked of him.

He also gave Replogle a tip before he left.

"He said that sometime tomorrow, in Las Vegas, he would be having a press conference and he was going to announce that he going to whip this guy in the seventh round. He said: ‘You are the first one I've told.”

Ali would win the fight via unanimous decision. 45 days later, he would suffer just his second career defeat at the hands of Ken Norton.

But he also gave Replogle a new passion: sports memorabilia. The Morrisville High School graduate has amassed an incredible college that includes the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, and framed autographs from many other legends over recent decades. Many of his pieces hang on the walls of Hannah’s General Store in Morrisville, which he now helps run with his wife.

He met Ali years later, when the boxer’s health had already begun to fail due to the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. The boxer autographed a photo of himself carrying the torch at the 1996 Olympic Games. Replogle also has a replica of Bill Elliot’s car that sported Ali’s image on the hood for one NASCAR race in 2001.

Those remain his only boxing pieces.

“Someone like him, you just don’t think they are ever going to die, so when you hear about it, it’s a shock."